One of life’s weird coincidences: a section of my mother’s written memoir that got left out of Amateurs in Eden was about their first holiday after the disastrous move to Lincolnshire. They went to Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast, and her grandfather was there too. He was a tall and imposing figure with a long white beard and dressed all in black, and he used to chat to the local fishermen and slipped into Norfolk dialect when talking with them, which Nancy considered to be all part of his instinctive politeness. So he pronounced the name of the town, ‘Cromaa-aar’.
When I came to work with the two promising novelists who had been chosen for the Escalator programme, I discovered that they had both set their novels at least partly in, of all places, Cromer … So a visit there was inevitable at some stage. Teresa, whose Cromer is a kind of parallel Cromer, name Shypton after the drowned village that is now half a mile out to sea, has been staying there for a few days, so I went to visit. And it was … cold! The train journey there via Norwich from Cambridge was magical on a sparkling cold morning, but I haven’t yet figured out the Norfolk landscape. Maybe after such a weight of expectation, the reality was bound to be a little – not disappointing, exactly – but just … real?